Business Letter

04 Des



Parts of a Business Letter
This resource is organized in the order in which you should write a business letter, starting with the sender’s address if the letter is not written on letterhead.
Sender’s Address
The sender’s address usually is included in letterhead. If you are not using letterhead, include the sender’s address at the top of the letter one line above the date.

Do not write the sender’s name or title, as it is included in the letter’s closing. Include only the street address, city, and zip code.


The date line is used to indicate the date the letter was written. However, if your letter is completed over a number of days, use the date it was finished in the date line. When writing to companies within the United States, use the American date format. (The United States-based convention for formatting a date places the month before the day. For example: June 11, 2001. ) Write out the month, day and year two inches from the top of the page. Depending which format you are using for your letter, either left justify the date or tab to the center point and type the date.
Inside Address
The inside address is the recipient’s address. It is always best to write to a specific individual at the firm to which you are writing. If you do not have the person’s name, do some research by calling the company or speaking with employees from the company. Include a personal title such as Ms., Mrs., Mr., or Dr. Follow a woman’s preference in being addressed as Miss, Mrs., or Ms. If you are unsure of a woman’s preference in being addressed, use Ms. If there is a possibility that the person to whom you are writing is a Dr. or has some other title, use that title. Usually, people will not mind being addressed by a higher title than they actually possess. To write the address, use the U.S. Post Office Format. For international addresses, type the name of the country in all-capital letters on the last line. The inside address begins one line below the sender’s address or one inch below the date. It should be left justified, no matter which format you are using.
Use the same name as the inside address, including the personal title. If you know the person and typically address them by their first name, it is acceptable to use only the first name in the salutation (for example: Dear Lucy:). In all other cases, however, use the personal title and last/family name followed by a colon. Leave one line blank after the salutation.
If you don’t know a reader’s gender, use a nonsexist salutation, such as their job title followed by the receiver’s name. It is also acceptable to use the full name in a salutation if you cannot determine gender. For example, you might write Dear Chris Harmon: if you were unsure of Chris’s gender.
For block and modified block formats, single space and left justify each paragraph within the body of the letter. Leave a blank line between each paragraph. When writing a business letter, be careful to remember that conciseness is very important. In the first paragraph, consider a friendly opening and then a statement of the main point. The next paragraph should begin justifying the importance of the main point. In the next few paragraphs, continue justification with background information and supporting details. The closing paragraph should restate the purpose of the letter and, in some cases, request some type of action.
The closing begins at the same vertical point as your date and one line after the last body paragraph. Capitalize the first word only (for example: Thank you) and leave four lines between the closing and the sender’s name for a signature. If a colon follows the salutation, a comma should follow the closing; otherwise, there is no punctuation after the closing.
If you have enclosed any documents along with the letter, such as a resume, you indicate this simply by typing Enclosures one line below the closing. As an option, you may list the name of each document you are including in the envelope. For instance, if you have included many documents and need to ensure that the recipient is aware of each document, it may be a good idea to list the names.
Typist initials
Typist initials are used to indicate the person who typed the letter. If you typed the letter yourself, omit the typist initials.
A Note About Format and Font
Block Format
When writing business letters, you must pay special attention to the format and font used. The most common layout of a business letter is known as block format. Using this format, the entire letter is left justified and single spaced except for a double space between paragraphs.
Modified Block
Another widely utilized format is known as modified block format. In this type, the body of the letter and the sender’s and recipient’s addresses are left justified and single-spaced. However, for the date and closing, tab to the center point and begin to type.
The final, and least used, style is semi-block. It is much like the modified block style except that each paragraph is indented instead of left justified.
Keep in mind that different organizations have different format requirements for their professional communication. While the examples provided by the OWL contain common elements for the basic business letter (genre expectations), the format of your business letter may need to be flexible to reflect variables like letterheads and templates. Our examples are merely guides.
Another important factor in the readability of a letter is the font. The generally accepted font is Times New Roman, size 12, although other fonts such as Arial may be used. When choosing a font, always consider your audience. If you are writing to a conservative company, you may want to use Times New Roman. However, if you are writing to a more liberal company, you have a little more freedom when choosing fonts.
Punctuation after the salutation and closing – use a colon (:) after the salutation (never a comma) and a comma (,) after the closing. In some circumstances, you may also use a less common format, known as open punctuation. For this style, punctuation is excluded after the salutation and the closing.
1. Block Format
Return Address Line 1 1
Return Address Line 2
Date (Month Day, Year) 2
Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. Full name of recipient. 3
Title/Position of Recipient.
Company Name
Address Line 1
Address Line 2
Dear Ms./Mrs./Mr. Last Name: 4
Subject: Title of Subject 5
Body Paragraph 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Body Paragraph 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Body Paragraph 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Closing (Sincerely…), 7

Signature 8
Your Name (Printed) 9
Your Title

Enclosures (2) 10
Typist Initials. 11

The block format is the simplest format; all of the writing is flush against the left margin. 
Your Address 1
The return address of the sender so the recipient can easily find out where to send a reply to. Skip a line between your address and the date. (Not needed if the letter is printed on paper with the company letterhead already on it.)
Date 2
Put the date on which the letter was written in the format Month Day Year i.e. August 30, 2003. Skip a line between the date and the inside address (some people skip 3 or 4 lines after the date).
Inside Address 3
The address of the person you are writing to along with the name of the recipient, their title and company name, if you are not sure who the letter should be addressed to either leave it blank, but try to put in a title, i.e. “Director of Human Resources”. Skip a line between the date and the salutation.
Salutation 4
Dear Ms./Mrs./Mr. Last Name:, Dear Director of Department Name: or To Whom It May Concern: if recipient’s name is unknown. Note that there is a colon after the salutation. Skip a line between the salutation and the subject line or body.
Subject Line (optional) 5
Makes it easier for the recipient to find out what the letter is about. Skip a line between the subject line and the body.
Body 6
The body is where you write the content of the letter; the paragraphs should be single spaced with a skipped line between each paragraph. Skip a line between the end of the body and the closing.
Closing 7
Let’s the reader know that you are finished with your letter; usually ends with Sincerely, Sincerely yours, Thank you, and so on. Note that there is a comma after the end of the closing and only the first word in the closing is capitalized. Skip 3-4 lines between the closing and the printed name, so that there is room for the signature.
Signature 8
Your signature will go in this section, usually signed in black or blue ink with a pen.
Printed Name 9
The printed version of your name, and if desired you can put your title or position on the line underneath it. Skip a line between the printed name and the enclosure.
Enclosure 10
If letter contains other document other than the letter itself your letter will include the word “Enclosure.” If there is more than one you would type, “Enclosures (#)” with the # being the number of other documents enclosed, not including the letter itself.
Reference Initials 11
If someone other than yourself typed the letter you will include your initials in capital letters followed by the typist’s initials in lower case in the following format; AG/gs or AG:gs.
2. Modified Block Format
1.      Return Address: If your stationery has a letterhead, skip this. Otherwise, type your name, address and optionally, phone number, five spaces to the right of center or flush with the right margin. Five spaces to the right of center is common. These days, it’s also common to include an email address.
2.      Date: Type the date five spaces to the right of center or flush with the right margin, two to six lines below the letterhead. Five spaces to the right of center and three lines below the letterhead are common. If there is no letterhead, type it where shown.
3.      Reference Line: If the recipient specifically requests information, such as a job reference or invoice number, type it on one or two lines, immediately below and aligned with the Date (2). If you’re replying to a letter, refer to it here. For example,
a.           Re: Job # 625-01
a.           Re: Your letter dated 1/1/200x.
4.      Special Mailing Notations: Type in all uppercase characters, if appropriate. Examples include
·            CERTIFIED MAIL
·            AIRMAIL
5.      On-Arrival Notations: Type in all uppercase characters, if appropriate. You might want to include a notation on private correspondence, such as a resignation letter. Include the same on the envelope. Examples are
a.           PERSONAL
b.           CONFIDENTIAL
6.      Inside Address:  Type the name and address of the person and/or company to whom you’re sending the letter, three to eight lines below the last component you typed. Four lines are standard. If you type an Attention Line (7), skip the person’s name here. Do the same on the envelope.
7.      Attention Line: Type the name of the person to whom you’re sending the letter. If you type the person’s name in the Inside Address (6), skip this. Do the same on the envelope.
8.      Salutation: Type the recipient’s name here. Type Mr. or Ms. [Last Name] to show respect, but don’t guess spelling or gender. Some common salutations are
a.           Ladies:
b.           Gentlemen:
c.           Dear Sir:
d.          Dear Sir or Madam:
e.           Dear [Full Name]:
f.           To Whom it May Concern:
9.      Subject Line: Type the gist of your letter in all uppercase characters. Be concise on one line. If you type a Reference Line (3), consider if you really need this line. While it’s not really necessary for most employment-related letters, examples are below.
c.           JOB INQUIRY
10.   Body: Type two spaces between sentences. Keep it brief and to the point.
11.   Complimentary Close: Type this aligned with the Date (2). What you type here depends on the tone and degree of formality. For example,
a.           Respectfully yours (very formal)
b.           Sincerely (typical, less formal)
c.           Very truly yours (polite, neutral)
d.          Cordially yours (friendly, informal)
12.   Signature Block: Align this with the Complimentary Close (11). Leave four blank lines to sign your name. Sign it exactly the same as you typed it below your signature. Title is optional depending on relevancy and degree of formality. Examples are
a.           John Doe, Manager
b.           P. Smith
Director, Technical Support
c.           R. T. Jones – Sr. Field Engineer
13.   Identification Initials: If someone typed the letter for you, he or she would typically include three of your initials in all uppercase characters, then two of his or hers in all lowercase characters. If you typed your own letter, just skip it since your name is already in the Signature Block (12). Common styles are below.
a.           JAD/cm
b.           JAD:cm
c.           clm
14.   Enclosure Notation: This line tells the reader to look in the envelope for more. Type the singular for only one enclosure, plural for more. If you don’t enclose anything, skip it. Common styles are below.
a.           Enclosure
b.           Enclosures: 3
c.           Enclosures (3)
15.   cc: Stands for courtesy copies (formerly carbon copies). List the names of people to whom you distribute copies, in alphabetical order. If addresses would be useful to the recipient of the letter, include them. If you don’t copy your letter to anyone, skip it.
3.       Semi-block format
The semi-block letter is a more traditional letter format than the full-block or block. The identifying features of the semi-block style letter is the left justification of the inside address (3) and salutation(4) and the indentation (five to ten spaces) of the first line of each paragraph (5). The dateline (2) is placed to the right or to harmonize with the letterhead. . The complimentary close (6) and the signature line (8) are typed to the right of the horizontal center of the page. 
Sample Letter
Here is a sample letter using some of these forms:
Ken’s Cheese House
34 Chatley Avenue
Seattle, WA 98765
October 23, 2006
Fred Flintstone
Sales Manager
Cheese Specialists Inc.
456 Rubble Road
Rockville, IL
Dear Mr Flintstone:
With reference to our telephone conversation today, I am writing to confirm your order for: 120 x Cheddar Deluxe Ref. No. 856
The order will be shipped within three days via UPS and should arrive at your store in about 10 days.
Please contact us again if we can help in any way.
Yours sincerely,

Kenneth Beare
Director of Ken’s Cheese House

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